In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we talk about negotiation. While many of us understand the basic skills involved in negotiations, our ability to practice these skills can be undermined by fear, self-doubt and limiting beliefs. This week, I talk with Moshe Cohen, a negotiations expert, mediator, author and senior lecturer at Boston University, about why it’s so hard for us to negotiate at work. Moshe shares powerful insights about the human experience in the negotiation process and how we can all empower ourselves to negotiate with greater confidence.
About My Guest
Moshe Cohen has been teaching negotiation, leadership, conflict resolution and organizational behavior as founder of The Negotiating Table since 1995 and as a senior lecturer at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business since 2000. He has worked with thousands of students as well as companies worldwide. As a mediator, Moshe has worked to resolve hundreds of matters, and also coaches executives, managers, and individuals on leading others and negotiating effectively. He is the author of two books – Collywobbles, How to Negotiate When Negotiating Makes You Nervous and Optimism is a Choice and Other Timeless Ideas. He has also written numerous articles and cases, and appears in podcasts, videos, and interviews. Moshe studied Physics at Cornell University and has a Master’s in Electrical Engineering from McGill University, specializing in robotics. After a dozen years in robotics, he completed his MBA from Boston University and fell in love with negotiation, mediation, and leadership.
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Kim Meninger Welcome Moshe, even I’ve been talking before I hit record, I feel like I could just keep on going. So I’m glad we hit record so that everyone can have access to our conversation today, I’d love to invite you to introduce yourself before we jump in.
Moshe Cohen So how you can, first of all, thank you so much for inviting me to the program. My name is Moshe Cohen. I teach negotiation and leadership and communication and conflict resolution, mediation and a whole bunch of other skills that have to do with how people interact with each other. And I’m also a mediator, so I mediate disputes, and I do some coaching, consulting, public speaking and writing, all in the same areas. I teach at BU, in the classroom, School of Business, I’ve been there since 2000. And I teach in the management and organizations department. So essentially the same skill set, but this time, mostly to MBA and specialty master’s students. And then I also run my own consultancy, called the negotiating table where I’ve been doing this for a long time since 1995. The funny part is that like most people in the negotiation field, my undergraduate was in physics. And actually, for most people, that’s not the case. But for me, it was I did physics for four years at Cornell and discovered the physics is way too hard for me. So as a result of that, I never went into physics. I went into electrical engineering instead, because it seemed easier at the time. And almost anything was easier compared to physics. And I did that for a couple years decided if I was going to be an engineer should have a degree in it. So I went up to McGill, get a master’s in electrical engineering, specializing in robotics. And then I was a roboticist for the next 11 years. Over the course of doing that, I found myself moving more towards the people side of things. So I decided to go into management, knowing nothing about management, went back to school and went to BU got my MBA. And the course of doing my MBA discovered that I’m really terrible manager and I hate managing. So that was an eye-opening experience. But what I also discovered was that I loved my people-related classes, my organizational behavior, leadership, and especially my negotiation class. And there was a week-long segment on mediation, I got to play the mediator and roleplay, they fell in love. And as a result of that, I got some additional training. And I became a mediator back in 95, started mediating like crazy immediately 83 cases my first year, and then just kept doing that. But it turns out that mediation is a great thing to do, but hard way to make a living. So most people add other things to it. In my case, teaching was the natural thing to add. So I started teaching classes on negotiation, mediation, eventually all these other subjects. And then in 2000 view, invited me back into teach. So I’ve been doing both things since then.
Kim Meninger I love your story because you don’t often hear if people going from physics to negotiations expert. And I just I think it’s great for people to hear that about nonlinear career paths because so often we tell ourselves the story that we have to have this perfect set of roles that we hold or career paths in order to get to where we want to be. And in reality, we just don’t know what we don’t know. And the way you describe it is, you kind of stumbled into it, having realized you’d liked the people side of business. And next thing, you know, you’re taking classes in an area you probably never would have studied if you stay in physics. And when
Moshe Cohen I got into my current career, when I was 34, I didn’t really get established in until my late 30s. So you know, I have students who are 24, and completely tied up in knots over what they want to do with their lives. And I’m like, do something and then figure it out. Because whatever you do, you’ll learn something. And either you’ll keep doing it, or you’ll find that you want to do something else.
Kim Meninger It’s a really great suggestion, it does take some of the pressure off to I want to go to negotiation for a moment because I relate to what you started out by saying, and I think about the workplace, you talked about it as sort of the interactions between people, I think about myself as focused on what makes it hard to be human in the workplace, and really kind of navigating the messy side of work. And when I think about negotiation, I think about it as having these two parts. One is sort of the, the practical skills of how to negotiate and the other part is more of the human side of it, right? So I might know what I’m quote-unquote supposed to do in a negotiation. But if I’m not confident, and if I doubt myself, if I you know, get really anxious in these kinds of situations, it’s gonna undermine my ability to, you know, actively perform those kinds of action steps. So I’m curious when you think about negotiation. Where do you see sort of this intersection and what feels most challenging to the people that you’re teaching?
Moshe Cohen So it’s interesting, they asked that because my focus in the negotiation field over the last 20 years has really been around this question of how do we get people to be able to use the skills that they’ve acquired because, you know, we spent a lot Have time teaching people skills and strategies we teach you how to prepare, we teach how to communicate. And then you find that people go to do it. And something happens that interferes with their ability to actually be effective. You know, I’ve had people say to me, I want to ask my boss for a raise, but every time I approach my boss’s office, I can’t breathe. It turns out that it helps to breathe, if you’re going to negotiate. And if that’s a problem for you need to learn how to manage that in real-time. So you can still be effective. So there’s a few things that I think really matter there. One is the whole mental frame we have around negotiation, and even the word negotiation tends to make people a little frightened. And I think of negotiations is something we do every day, anytime you and someone else needs to make a decision. And you don’t start off in the same place. There’s a negotiation. So I negotiate at home routinely over very simple things. Right? So my son wasn’t feeling well today, does he go to school? Does he not go to school do I call school and column out does my wife calls, call school and column, all of these things are in negotiations, which means that if negotiations are something so common, and ordinary for us, they become a lot less scary because when people think about negotiations or hear the word negotiations, very often, they think about things like buying a car, which is really stressful negotiating for a job, which is really stressful negotiating to buy a house, which is really stressful. But they don’t realize that those same skills they use every day, for the routine interactions with other people are also negotiation skills, and they apply to those same situations as well. The second thing is I think of everything in the world, including negotiation is conversation. It’s just two people having a conversation, except it’s a conversation with a purpose. And the purpose is to see if there’s a meeting point between what I need and what you need. So it makes sense to play together. If that turns out to be the case, then there’s a reason to move forward together. If it’s not, then you go meet your interests in another way. I’ll go my meet my interests in another way. And we’re both fine. So if you, if you think about those two things, as negotiations happen every day, and negotiations are really just conversations, you take a lot of the pressure off yourself on even thinking about the term negotiations. Do you want to keep going? Because I can talk about this for a while?
Kim Meninger Yeah, sure. Well, I, as you’re saying that what immediately comes to mind for me is that when you make a distinction between the negotiation that we might do, let’s say with a partner, like you said, around who’s going to make the phone call, or what are we going to have for dinner or things like that, and something like asking for a raise? One of the things that I think about is rejection, right? And the power of that fear that the person on the other end of this conversation is going to say no to me, and what is that going to do to our relationship? And I’m going to be crushed. And, you know, I’ll never bounce back from this the stories that we tell ourselves, right? So, so how do we get to a place where we’re able to not catastrophize when it comes to things like negotiation?
Moshe Cohen So, you know, we, as you, as you really very well bring up, we bring a lot of fears into our negotiations. And I like to think of the spheres on three levels, there’s fears of tangible hurt, if I’m applying for a job, and they make me an offer, and I asked for more money, they might rescind the offer might not get the job. So that’s actually something tangibly bad happening. We have a fear of relationship damage, you wouldn’t believe how many people have told me, I want to ask my boss for a raise, but I’m afraid of damaging our relationship. And I gotta tell you, if you can damage your relationship with your boss by asking for a raise, you kind of have a problem with that relationship already. Good point, right? And the third category is fear of emotional pain. Right? And a lot of that has to do with rejection, but not necessarily just rejection. You know, if I asked for this, the other person might get upset with me. I don’t like it when people are upset with me. Or the other person might begin to cry. And I’m like, they’ll stop crying because I really don’t like it when I make people cry. So when you look at these fears of tangible hurt, relationship, damage and emotional pain, they tend to be really pervasive. When people go to negotiate, and having fears isn’t bad. Adding fears is normal. We all have fears, right? My cat has fears. The fears are things that keep us from running into the street, so fears themselves aren’t bad. It’s when we let them define and dominate our behavior. That’s when things get really bad and the impact of these fears on negotiations can be pretty too severe. For one thing, if you’re so fearful, you I might not engage in a negotiation altogether, I want to ask for a discount, but I’m not going to ask for it. So now you haven’t asked for it. You might cave at the slightest resistance. So you finally get the courage to ask and the person says, No, and you go, Okay, I guess I guess I’ll just slink away. Or you might rush through the negotiation, just to get over the discomfort as quickly as possible. So these are some, and there’s other things that happen. But these are some of the big ones that are the impacts of our fears. And the antidote to that begins with awareness. And you know, the cornerstone of emotional intelligence is just being self-aware. And if you can be aware of what you’re afraid might happen if you negotiate, and what you’re telling yourself that might happen if you negotiate, then you can start managing those fears. So, they’ll still be there but they won’t be driving the bus. I can be very scared of something, but still do it. I took a rock climbing class, and I’ve got quite the fear of heights. And I was scared, you know, I was scared that I would fall and my harness would snap and all that. But you know, what’s the real probability of that happening? Right, those, those things, you know, so people don’t die. So by being aware of the fear, I was able to manage it to the point where I could, you know, go up and down the wall as much as I wanted to, I didn’t enjoy it, because I was still scared, but it was able to do it. So you might not find negotiating, you know, for a car fun, but can you manage your fear to the point where you can do it and be effective. That’s, that’s a first step. Now, it turns out that your fears are actually magnified or amplified by a number of factors. That, what I call stress factors, and probably the biggest one is conflict. You wouldn’t believe how many people told me I don’t like conflict, I hate conflict, I avoid conflict. And it turns out that we have a lot of negative associations with conflict. You know, when I ask people to name the first word that comes to mind when I say conflict, it’s things like fight, war, yelling, disagreement argument. If you go long enough, some positive words come out, right, because there are actually quite a few positives that come from conflict, new ideas, growth, learning, resolution, but those aren’t the ones that come to mind first. And because we have so many negative associations with conflict, we associate conflict with tangible hurt, relationship damage, or emotional pain. If I’m in conflict with you, you might hit me, that’s tangible hurt. If I’m in conflict with you, you might not like me anymore. That’s relationship damage. If I’m in conflict with you, you might do something makes me feel bad. Now that’s emotional hurt. So conflict amplifies whatever fears we bring into the situation. The second factor is uncertainty. I don’t know if you ever wondered why almost every kid in the world is afraid of the dark. And that’s because they can’t see what’s there. And what we can’t see, we can imagine. And we imagine some pretty scary things. And all negotiations are uncertain. It’s a key characteristic of negotiations that you never know at the outset, what’s going to happen, you never know what personality you’re going to be up against, you never know what kind of tricks the other person is going to pull out of their sleep. And that uncertainty, again, amplifies whatever fears you bring into the situation. And the third, the third stress factor that I talk about frequently is power perception. If you perceive yourself to be at a lower power position to the other person, for example, you’re negotiating with a client, clients have more power than we do because they’re paying our bills, or we negotiate with a bus, or, you know, I’ve run a company of one person, or I negotiate with very huge multinationals. Right? So there’s this power perception, then you feel like the other party is in a position to actually inflict tangible hurt relationship damage or emotional pain on you. And because they amplify our fear so much when we encounter situations that involve either conflict or uncertainty or a power imbalance, perceived or real, then our fears get worse. And the last thing I want to say about this, and then feel free to interrupt me at any time with questions is that a lot of our thinking about our fears and our stress factors, emanates from the narratives that we tell ourselves. You see, we’re always telling ourselves stuff. Now in my book, I have a whole chapter on it’s called, What’s your story? Right? Because we’re telling ourselves stuff about ourselves. We’re taller than me, I’ll show starves stuff about the other party, and we’re telling ourselves stuff about the situation. So if I’m negotiating with you, and I’m like, Oh, Kim, such a skilled accomplished negotiator, I don’t stand a chance. I just made that self-fulfilling. I may avoid negotiating with you altogether because I’m scared of you. Or if I say, Well, you know, I’m really desperate because I have to get the, his job? Well, now I’m afraid to negotiate. Or if I talk about the situation, right, and I’m trying to buy a house, but it’s a seller’s market. So as a buyer, I shouldn’t even try. So the things that we tell ourselves have a profound impact on what we do, how we feel and how we interact with other people. And the media, if we can gain control of our narratives, if we can understand what they are managing, we can transform from being the victims of our own stories to being the authors of our stories, because those narratives exist entirely in our own minds. And therefore, at least in theory, it should be possible for us to rewrite them. And I say, in theory, because not easy to do that, right? We have narratives that are pretty well ingrained there. But it’s not impossible to rewrite them. And what you want to do is, first of all, be aware of what your narrative is, when I coach people in negotiations, one of the questions I asked them most frequently is okay, stop, stop, stop. What are you telling yourself right now? And it’s amazing, because once people are calculated, very often, they’re not that excited about what they’re telling themselves. And they realize it’s not necessarily true because then you look at the impact of the story. And then you look at the data, what do you actually know? And it turns out a lot of our stories we kind of makeup. And given that we make them up, we can make up different ones, I can meet negotiating with that multinational and say to myself, yeah, I’m a company of one, and there are a company of 30,000 people. But the reason they’re talking to me is because they need something. And if I can figure out what that is, maybe there’s a deal to be done. And now I have some power. But it’s that framing in your mind of rewriting the story that lets you manage your fears, and starts to address the stress factors in the situation.
Kim Meninger Gosh, I love what you’re saying. Because you’re making me think about so many things. Right now, I think about how so much of what you said applies to negotiations. But it also applies more generally to how we interact with one another in the workplace, which, you know, if we kind of come back to where you started, could be a function of the fact that we’re kind of always negotiating with each other at work, right? And maybe we’re not identifying it that way. Because it’s not asking for a raise. But when we are in the workplace, we really are negotiating with you, I’m trying to get you to prioritize my needs, when you have other people to support, I want you to embrace my idea over someone else’s. And so there’s little mini negotiations happening everywhere. But all of these fears and stress factors that you’re talking about, really, I think, reinforce why it’s so difficult for us to do this. And I often joke that we should all have to go through therapy before we go into the workplace because we’re triggering each other all over the place. And we don’t realize it and so much of why we struggle with this in the workplace is because we didn’t necessarily have great role models for when you talk about conflict, I think about that one in particular, it’s so many of us are afraid of conflict, it’s because that’s what we grew up experiencing. If if that’s the first word that comes to mind, when we think of conflict, obviously, that’s been our lived experience, we don’t have great role models for healthy conflict. And so I think about this journey that we’re on, and some of us embrace this idea of self-awareness more easily or freely than other people. And so even if we’re trying to do our best to get to a better place, we still have to work with other people who are maybe further behind us on the journey. So one of the things that I think about, too, and I’ll let you respond in a moment to anything that is coming up for you. But this idea that because of these deep-rooted psychological sort of experiences that we’ve had narratives that we have, as you said, are guiding us in very implicit and explicit ways. We have this tendency to go into this self-preservation mode whenever we’re in these kinds of situations. And the focus is so much on these fears that you talked about the tangible hurt relationship damage or emotional pain, but at the, at the time that we are prioritizing, protecting ourselves from those, we are not acknowledging the cost of what we might be giving up by not engaging in the negotiation in the first place, or by not engaging as confidently or as powerfully. So I want to stop there and just see what, what your responses to anything that I’m saying.
Moshe Cohen So I had two thoughts. One of the things that I think you talk a lot about is imposter syndrome. And what is impostor syndrome, if not a narrative we have about ourselves, right? It’s me telling myself, Well, I’m really not good enough. And I’ve managed to somehow pull the wool over other people’s eyes so far, and they haven’t figured that out. But if they ever do, and I’m found out, you know, bad things will happen. You know, if they find out, I’m not as good as I am, maybe I’ll get fired, that’s tangible hurt. If they find out who I really am, they might not like me anymore. Or they’ll reject me. And then I’ll help you feel, feel very hurt. So when you think about it, even impostor syndrome comes down to tangible hurt, relationship damage and emotional pain. And it’s really fed by a narrative, we tell ourselves now we tell ourselves our narratives over and over and over again. And we need to break that. And the way to break that is to, first of all, be aware of what we’re telling ourselves, and then try to make conscious decisions not to do that anymore. I was coaching a student who was telling himself a very negative narrative about his colleagues. And I stopped him and I said, stop that. And it’s not about them, it’s about you, you telling yourself that over and over again, is creating a bad mindset for you and putting yourself in a bad position. And you got to stop that. So we tend to, we tend to tell ourselves things over and over again. And that really cements the narratives. And, you know, the problem is, it didn’t start with us. Or one of my favorite things I ever wrote, in chapter six of my book, there’s a section called On the Origin of stories. And it starts with a phrase in the beginning, long before you were born, there was already a story about you. And it goes from there. But it what it says is that our families, our society, have a story about us that they consciously or unconsciously, feed us over and over again, from the time we’re very young. And by time, we’re like five years old, we’ve internalized that story. And then, whatever happens to us in our life, we tend to reinforce that story. So by the time we become adults, we are imprinted with a story that we mostly didn’t create, but then we’ve been reinforced over time. Well, now that we’re adults, we have a very difficult choice. Do we keep that story that other people gave us about us? Or do we decide what story we want to have about ourselves, and making that shift is profoundly difficult? But without it, we are victims. Without it, we are trapped in whatever story that other people created for us. You know, it might not be just our parents, you know, if you think about the normal schoolyard is run by school children, and they’re not always very nice, right? And you might have a story that you developed about yourself, because of how your, your friend group treated you that now has become permanently imprinted in your brain. Well, it’s not permanent, you can change it, it just requires a lot of attention, a lot of work and a lot of setbacks to get there. But it’s not impossible. Change your story, you change your life. And this is true about negotiations, too, if I change my story from thinking, you know, I’m not capable to, I’m going to try and I’m going to learn over time, things change.
Kim Meninger It’s so powerful. I think about this a lot too because I often say especially going back to what you’re saying about uncertainty, I think so much of our self-doubt is rooted in the uncertainty of what might happen. And we and I often say, in the absence of information, we’ll make it up, right? And we usually don’t make it up in ways that are favorable to ourselves or others, right? We’re making up stories all the time. But I love the way you describe it as if we can make up one story, then we can tell ourselves a different story. And so I’m curious whether you think on sort of a practical level when it comes to negotiation, so imagining people listening who are saying, oh, good timing, I’ve got this conversation with my boss next week. There’s, there’s inner work that we’re talking about that could take years of our lives to really process all of these things. And I don’t know that we ever get to a point where we’re fully healed, these forces that we’re talking about, but I wonder, are there more immediate things that can help us with some of the storytelling and some of the doubts that we bring into these kinds of situations on a daily basis? It’s just sort of help us break out of that box and empower ourselves in the moment.
Moshe Cohen Yeah, you know, sometimes people ask me, What do I like the three pieces of advice you give people, you know, in order to negotiate better? And the first one I would say is, prepare, the better prepared you are, typically, the better you’re going to do. But also the more prepared you are, the more confident you feel. And there’s a huge correlation between confidence and success. If I’m going into a negotiation, let’s say with a vendor, and I don’t know anything about their product, I don’t know anything about their company. If I don’t know anything about their competitors, then I go in there. And I’m nervous because they might hit me with stuff. I don’t know, if I go in, and I’m negotiating, let’s say, for a job. And I don’t know anything about the job market, and I don’t know anything about the person I’m negotiating with. And I don’t know how valued I am in the market, how you know how the market values, my skills, again, are going very nervous. But if I’ve done really good preparation, and I have my talking points written out, and I have, you know, I’ve done some research on the internet to find out what other companies are paying for my position, that kind of thing. I’ll walk in there with a lot more confidence. So rule number one is prepared, the better prepared you are, the better you’re going to do, and certainly, the better you’re going to feel. The second thing is, and this is, you know, one of my guiding philosophies is that life happens in moments, you could have a great negotiation, and then all of a sudden, in one moment, something happens, it could all fall to pieces. So learning to manage the moments is critical. And there’s a tool I developed called the emotional response curve. But the idea there is that anything that happens to you anything anybody says anything anybody does, any situation that you walk into impacts you first, on the emotional level, and emotions hit you very, very hard and very fast. And then they start subsiding. Meanwhile, your cognitive brain is slowly ramping up, and it will eventually figure out how to solve the problem. But it’s slower than your emotional bank. So you need to learn how to catch yourself and slow down time. So you can respond rather than react to situations, you just need to let your neocortex catch up to your amygdala basically. So the emotional response to it has three major implications. One is that different people have different triggers that send them into emotional overload. The better you understand your triggers, the less triggering you are. So for example, if one of my triggers is authority figures, and I have to go talk to my boss, well, I get to have a lot of self-talk before that, on managing that fear of authority figures before I go talk to my boss because guess what, there’s no way I can talk to my boss without my boss being an authority figure. So but, but, but coming into it having thought about that, it’s chances are it’s not going to trigger me as much. Other typical triggers involve things like time pressure, certain personalities or behaviors. Subject matter if I feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about. Or if the other person starts asking me questions. They don’t know how to answer very often, that’s very triggering surprises, that’s a big trigger. So again, preparation helps knowing yourself really helps. And it doesn’t eliminate the triggers, but it reduces them you get fewer triggers, and usually their impact isn’t as severe. No matter what, you’re still going to get triggered. So the next thing you need to do is catch yourself. Catch yourself when you’ve been triggered. So you stop yourself from doing or saying something you regret. Fortunately, your body gives you some clues that you’re in emotional overload. Your heart rate goes up your breathing changes your muscles tense. Some people tremble. Some people feel hot, some people actually feel cold. Some people feel it in their tummies. There’s a word for that. It’s called the collywobbles, which is why all my book that. And some people, it’s cognitive, not physical, but some people shut down, they get into brain freeze, they just can’t think they can’t speak. Other people go the other way and get into nervous talking and start battling. You need to know what happens to you under stress, because the moment it happens, you need to catch yourself very quickly, and stop and then slow down time. So you don’t do or say anything of significance until your rational brain has caught up again. To slow down time, you can do things like stay silent and breathe, you can ask for a break. Right? Just saying things like, you know, thanks. Let me get back to you. That’s a time for you to regroup. You can acknowledge what the other person said and ask them questions to turn the floor back to them. So you don’t have to speak while they’re talking. I always take notes when I negotiate. And one of the reasons is I can’t write as fast as they talk. So writing things down slows me down. Everybody has their own triggers their own stress symptoms and their own techniques that help them to get back to a better emotional place. But being thoughtful about those things, developing an awareness of what are your triggers, what happens to you when you get triggered and what works for you to get back to even keel when you’ve been triggered? is immensely important. In learning to manage the moments, I’m a very emotionally volatile person. I get upset, I get overwhelmed, I get angry, I get excited. And I’ve made tons of mistakes negotiating because I got reactive in that moment. So learning to catch myself and slow down time has been critical in learning how to manage, manage my reaction, so I’m responsive rather than react. doping has made me a much more effective negotiator. Few months ago, I had a very upsetting thing. Someone used my intellectual property without asking me, and then didn’t credit me. And I was very upset about that. And I was shaking that it doesn’t take a lot. And I’m pretty even keel. So it takes a lot to get me that mad my daughter was visiting at the time, she said, What are you going to do? And I said nothing for the next two hours. Because I just needed to give myself time to calm down because I wanted to be I wanted to respond strategically, rather than just react. So the second thing is, first one is prepare, second one has learned to manage the moments. And the third is listen. No skill is more important for a negotiator than listening. If someone says to you, like let’s say, you ask your boss for a promotion, and your boss says, I don’t think you’re ready at first, you have to manage that emotional spike of whatever happens to you, right? You know, you want to cry or, or you want to yell or you, you, you all of a sudden feel bad about yourself or you feel bad about your boss, you need to manage that moment. So slow down time. But then the next thing you want to do is acknowledge what the person has said. And see if you can get yourself to a point where you can be curious about they said, rather than judgmental. And you say to your boss, so, you know, I’m confused, because I thought it was ready. It sounds like you think I’m not ready? Tell me tell me more about that. And you get the other person to talk. And whatever they say you listen really carefully and then reflect back to them. And then you ask them more open-ended questions. And in that process, you find out really important information that will allow you to negotiate more effectively, you calm yourself down, you make them feel listened to and valued, which put, that puts them in a different mindset to work with you. And you can completely gain control of that negotiation and transform your outcome. So it’s preparation, managing the moments, and listening are the like the two the three keys to succeeding as a negotiator. There’s other things, but those are three really big ones.
Kim Meninger And I just keep coming back to how these are helpful in any situation. I mean, obviously, negotiations are a big source of stress for us. And these steps make perfect sense in those moments. But I think we could broaden the applicability so much because I think about it in the context of like, we were talking about impostor syndrome, and just how so much of it is that we become hijacked by these emotional responses. And if we don’t know what’s happening, and we don’t give ourselves the chance to slow down time, we’re showing up in ways that we’re not proud of, and it becomes this self-reinforcing narrative of Oh, see, I knew I wasn’t ready for this, or I knew everyone was smarter than I was. And so I think just the ability to practice these steps, and so many different aspects of our, our lives will be helpful.
Moshe Cohen Let’s pretend that your boss put you on a project. And it’s your first prominent role in this project. And then, sometime later, in a project meeting, your boss asks you hard questions. And now you feel like you’re not doing a great job. Right? That really just feeds into people’s imposter syndrome. And your first reaction is, ah, no-no. And you might be tempted to tell your boss, well, maybe I wasn’t the right person for this. Or worse yet, you might be tempted to tell yourself that. And that’s normal. But you need to slow down and let that moment pass. Because you know, just like waves in the ocean, they come but then they recede, that that emotional label will come, it’ll be overwhelming. You’ll want to cry and run out of the room and quit your job on the spot. But if you just sit it out, it will get better. You will, you will get to a better place emotionally. And then see if you can engage your boss and say, ‘it sounds like you think I could be doing some things differently on the project. What are some of those things that you’ve observed? And what do you suggest?’ And now, you’re just two people having conversation. [Yes] It’s all about that. And by the way, if you come into that meeting, super prepared, then there’s a lot less of a chance that your boss will ask you a question you don’t know how to answer, or that some issue will come up that you haven’t thought of.
Kim Meninger Yeah, absolutely. And I wonder too so much. And I’m thinking about this in the context of emotional intelligence, I think so much of this is our own work to do. But I find it helpful to, to remind people that just as you’re on that emotional wave, other people are too and a lot of what you’re seeing in them, especially in a situation that maybe emotionally charged, is their emotional reaction and not their most rational argument or presentation. And so just reminding ourselves that that’s, this isn’t about you can also be helpful.
Moshe Cohen I’ve had the pleasure of raising six teenagers. [Oh, wow.] And talking about volatility, right, and, you know, being, you know, being flung around by your emotional reactions to things. You tell a teenager, they can’t go to a party, and the whole world has ended. And they will be social outcasts, and you’re the worst parent in the world, and they hate you. And they say all sorts of vile things to you. If you let yourself become reactive to that it just creates a cycle, that’s very negative. But if you just wait them out, much of the time, at some point cooler heads prevail. And you can have a more reasoned conversation about it. With teenagers, that’s the advanced class, your mileage will vary. But, you know, being a teenager is hard. I don’t, I don’t envy them what they’re going through. It’s not fun to be on the parent end of that, either. But it’s, you know, but all people go through that, right? Well, teenagers is just exaggerated. And if let’s say, you know, you, you have a colleague who’s upset about something that you did, maybe something inadvertent, but they’re upset with you, and they’re yelling at you, you might be tempted to be reactive, you might yell back, you might shut down. But if you could just wait them out. And then maybe ask them some questions. And treat them but also yourself with some respect, then the conversation will shift with most people, but sometimes not.
Kim Meninger Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s a really good way to think about it, too, is to know that this is a temporary moment. And to not feel obligated to continue down a path that isn’t working for either one of you, I think showing that curiosity is really important. But if it feels like it’s so emotionally charged, that we can’t even get to a reasonable place right now. Take a break. Don’t force it. Don’t feel like you have to continue this conversation this moment.
Moshe Cohen Yeah, I mean, the only thing that that you know, to think about is that none of this is deterministic, I wish I could tell you, okay, here’s the formula, do, do things, one, two, and three in this order, and everything will be great. It’s not, you’re dealing with humans. And sometimes you do something and it works brilliantly, you do it the same, the same way the next day with the same person and it completely falls on its face. So I really, really believe that life is statistical. And that all we get to do is move the odds in our favor or against us. And then the rest isn’t up to us. It’s up to the other person, it’s up to chance, there’s a lot of luck that happens and how things happen around us. But we get to, we get to manage the odds a little bit. And the, I like to say that in life, we have to be smart, and we have to be lucky. And the less smart, we are the luckier we need to be. So if we try to make good choices, we improve the odds. But if we occasionally do the right thing, and the wrong thing happens, we shouldn’t draw the conclusion that it was the wrong thing to do. We should examine it, but it might have been the right thing to do. It just didn’t work.
Kim Meninger Yeah, that’s a really important point as well. Well, as usual, I could talk to you all day. So I know that you have a book and I want to make sure that everybody knows how to find you and get more of your great wisdom. Where can people find you?
Moshe Cohen So a great place to find me is on LinkedIn. If you look at Moshe Cohen Negotiation, I, the first person that pops up, and I post very regularly, every two weeks I do a video about negotiation. And then I post articles and posts either about negotiation or about leadership, optimism, mindfulness, those kinds of things pretty much every day. I have written a couple books. My first book about negotiation is called Collywobbles, How to Negotiate When Negotiating Makes You Nervous, and it’s available on Amazon. It’s available on Kindle. It’s available. It’s an audiobook on Audible, and on other platforms as well and in almost every bookstore and if you go on at bookstore’s website, you can, you can find it as well. My second book is called Optimism is the Choice and Other Timeless Ideas It’s a collection of essays I wrote during the pandemic, that is uplifting and reminds you that things can be bad and we don’t control that. But we do control how we respond to them. And that can dramatically improve our quality of life. And I’m working on a whole bunch of more books. There’s another book of essays coming out soon, I’m working with three others. So, you know, looking forward to engaging with anyone. I’m pretty easy to find and reach out to me. I’m happy to have a conversation.
Kim Meninger Well, Moshe, I’m gonna have to have you back when you have new releases coming out. When whenever the time is right. I’d love to continue the conversation. And thank you so much for another great conversation.
Moshe Cohen Thank you so much for inviting me again. It’s really, it’s really been a pleasure and I look forward to continuing more conversations with you.